My China Unveiled

I think I answered all the questions you guys posed in the recent FAQ post, but if I missed one just let me know.  Or if it raises other questions, that’s fine too.  

What do you do for health care? Do you have insurance? What about life insurance and such? 
We have an international health insurance policy with Four Corners.  It covers us abroad and in the states, but requires that we live outside the USA.  It isn’t too expensive, but the coverage in the states isn’t the greatest.  Generally they’ll send you to Thailand or some other country with high-quality and lower-cost medical care for treatment for some complicated issue.  It’s really just for catastrophes.  For everyday medical stuff, we utilize local Chinese hospitals.  The quality of care ranges from adequate to excellent and it costs less than $1 to see a doctor at some places.

Are there volunteers with children? If so where do the kids attend school? 
Yes, we have 4 families with children — ranging from 1 child to 5 children.  They all home school.  There are excellent international schools in Beijing, but they have high tuitions and are an hour away.  So everyone with kids (and there are lots!) home schools.  There’s even a dedicated classroom on our organization’s campus for families with kids.  No teacher – but a space that can be used.

Have you had any health scares since you’ve lived there and if so, what is it like going to a hospital where treatments are so different than here…and where the physicians don’t speak English?
The worst health scare we’ve had here was when I was diagnosed with double pneumonia last October.  It was a quite serious case, and I narrowly avoided hospitalization.  In addition to bad pneumonia, my body sort of stopped fighting and I had dangerously low white blood cell counts for a while.  (If I’d been in the states, I wouldn’t have avoided hospitalization.  They’d have checked me in for sure.)  But, I got home healthcare here!  (Literally!  IV bags hanging from my living room lights!)  After the fact, the hospital doctor referenced the fact that I almost died, though I think she was being melodramatic.  However, I do know I’ve never been so sick in all my life.  Anyway, I was solely treated by our foster home medical staff in conjunction with a nearby Chinese hospital.  It was an “interesting cultural experience,” but I was too sick to care.  In the ways that mattered most – i.e. treatment courses and medicines prescribed – it was similar to what would have happened in the states.  But it wasn’t like the states in any other way.  I wrote about the experience back at the time…  Oh, and you take a translator with you to the hospital if you want to stay sane.

Did you speak Mandarin when you moved there? I’m guessing you speak some now…you must.  Are you fluent?
We didn’t speak any Mandarin when we moved here, and now we have decent oral Mandarin.  Most people don’t think they’re fluent without years of study, and I certainly wouldn’t come close.  But, we can get by.  We can handle pretty much any every-day situation.  We understand more than we can speak… it’s an interesting part of learning a language.  Oh, and I can’t read much of anything.

What do you miss most about living in the States? 
Depends on the day.  Sometimes family.  Sometimes a real oven and a shower stall (and a home to put them in).  Sometimes a financially rewarding career path.  Sometimes a car.  Sometimes activities like camping or browsing in a bookstore or playing paintball or riding motorcycles. (Those last two are Jacob’s in case you are wondering.)  Sometimes a place where we didn’t say things like “This is China!” as an adequate explanation for why something is the way it is.  (I guess that would mean sometimes I miss living in a familiar culture.)  It really does seem to change with the day.

What is the best and worst local food that you have tried?
Best – These dumplings in Shanghai rank up there.  I gorged on them.  Also fried persimmon cakes in Xi’an.  These meat breads from a vendor on our street here in our village are also awesome.
Worst – ohhh… where to start.  Many, many odd seafood dishes.  Things like sea worms and sea urchins.  Donkey wasn’t my favorite either.  I don’t think Jacob liked Dog very much when he had that.

What is the most surprising food that you bring from home that locals like to eat with you? 
Tacos.  Cheese.  And though they say they don’t like sweets, they lie.  🙂

How does the cost of living compare to the states?
It’s lower over-all.  Jacob and I can easily eat a meal in our village for under $2 total.  (Not a great meal, but hey!  It’s $2!)  Some things like meat and gas aren’t any cheaper and sometimes more expensive.  But veggies are super-cheap.  Housing in the village isn’t too bad, though in the city it is insanely expensive.

How do most Chinese people feel about Americans, and what have their reaction been?
They love Americans.  The reaction is a little funny – they are shocked that we’d give up our “comfortable lives in America” to live in our little village.  And I’m really quoting them.  They think that everyone in American has a comfortable life, and to be honest, based on the criteria they’re using, they’re mostly right.  Anyway, they are very touched and honored that we come to live in China.  I’ve never had someone respond negatively to us.  And, overall, they are much kinder to foreigners than Americans tend to be.

Our Grocery Store

When we were in China the last time, we went through a market where there were live geese, chickens and such and the local people bought them alive and had them prepared for dinner that night. Carrie. Seriously…is that what you do? I’m no Pollyanna, but I’ve never even de-boned a chicken, much less plucked feathers off a fresh carcass. OH MY. I really want to know if that’s the way it has to be, or if you can get around that somehow.
I get around that.  Our market definitely has that, but I tend to buy the pre-butchered frozen chicken pieces from one of a handful of street vendors.  They keep them in big coolers.  If we want beef or pork, we buy it from a vendor on the street who has a big ‘ol side of meat from which he hacks of chunks.  It takes some getting used to.  But, I generally avoid eating any meat that resembles the form it once had as a live animal.  And I don’t pick out my animals live.  (Though locals often prefer it, as it is so much “fresher!”)  It’s hard enough for me to accept that a whole chicken always comes with head and feet attached, I don’t really want to pick mine out and then watch it be butchered.  They do pluck the feathers for you, though!  (If you want.)  We do have a funny story involving a mountain-side restaurant where we ordered chicken and they brought one in (live) for our dining companion to review.  He approved, and they took it right outside the door.  After some intense squabbling, there was silence and a few minutes later a chicken stew I choked down.  We eat less meat here, honestly.  I’m almost a vegetarian.  For obvious reasons.

Also along the cooking theme: Do you have a crock-pot that you can leave cooking all day and then come home to yummy stew or something like that? My crock-pot is like my right hand man. I can’t imagine living without it! 😉
Not an actual crockpot, but a pressure cooker that we found out functions like a crockpot if you us leave it on the “warm” setting!  It IS great.  (Good thing I edited this!  I just noticed that when I answered the questions, I originally typed “crackpot” both times.  Odd.  Odder still that I corrected it and am now telling you.  Oh well, I thought it was funny.)

My nearly 14 year old is dying to know what it would look like for us to move to China (a family dream). On our adoption trips we were warned to “not drink the water”. What do you do about that? Get used to it? Filter it? How about those veggies at Subway? 
We drink bottled water.  We have one of those big water dispensers in our house like you’d see in an office in the states.  It’s great because it automatically has hot or cold water.  The filled bottles get delivered to our doorstep for about $1.50 each.  But, we brush our teeth and wash our veggies with tap water.  And, we aren’t too skittish about eating raw veggies in restaurants either, or yummy street food for that matter.  For the first 2-3 months that we lived here, we generally always felt a bit queasy, but I think our stomachs got used to the local bugs and now we’re fine.  We still don’t drink the water because no one really does.  We’ve had lots of house guests, and we feed them the same things we eat (including the above), and no one has ever been sick.  Random side note – did you know most food poisoning is related to veggies and not meat?  In other words, my tomato purchase is much more risky than buying my meat from the street.

When you have short term visitor volunteer at the foster home, what would a typical day look like for them? 
We work from 8-5 with an hour for lunch.  Volunteers are generally assigned to certain parts of the foster home — preschool, the toddler room, or the babies.  Your time is spent with the kids and helping the nannies with their daily care.  Unless you have a special medical skill, in which case you do lots of evaluations and we pick your brain.  To be honest, you have to come ready to babysit.  That’s as glamorous as it gets.  🙂

The Veggie Vendor
So this isn’t in relation to a question, but we had a funny experience tonight.  We were buying veggies in a new “indoor” stand.  Basically the vendors just opened up their home which doubles as a little shop on the street.  It is a home/shop, like most of the places in our village, because people live and work in the same place.  Anyway, we went in here thinking maybe the fresh veggies wouldn’t be frozen like the ones on the street.  I was picking out some things when Jacob pointed over my shoulder, nudging me to talk a little quieter.  There is the corner was the grandma of the house, asleep on her bed while I was buying cucumbers 2 feet away.

This is China.  

13 thoughts on “My China Unveiled

  1. Thanks for your answers..I am sure we can think of more….haha

    I have always wondered about something. I have been told by several Chinese people ( in China) that many Chinese people have no idea there are so many orphans in China and are puzzled when they see Americans with Chinese children. They acted that way around us anyway. Is this true? Do Chinese people know about IA? Do they realize there are children in orphanages? I can't imagine how they would not know….or is it just something they do not talk about?


  2. All right, I about fell out of my chair when you said DONKEY!!!! You crack me up.

    And honestly, my heart about broke when you said that sometimes, you'd like to live in a place where you didn't just say, “This is China” – as an excuse for things being the way they are.

    Though sometimes we just shake our heads and say, “only in America”…..

    I have to add – after reading Love for Lilly Yin's comment – my husband and another guy were out shopping in GZ one evening and some girls were pestering them to buy some stuff – they told them they were “rich Americans” – to which my husband replied – “are you kidding? we don't have any money anymore – we spent it all on this adoption!” And the girls giggled and laughed & said they couldn't imagine spending “$1,000 USD on an adoption”…



  3. Wow- so insightful Carrie! Thanks!
    I am sure I would be vegetarian if I lived there.
    Strange that veggies pose more of a threat than meat…but I get it.
    I do have another question even if it IS too late.
    I have no idea how many more long years until ya'll turn 30 but do you plan on staying in China that long and if so, would you adopt from China? And if you did, would it be any easier for you since you live there or would you still have to go through the entire dossier process here in the States (which would be markedly more difficult since you wouldn't be living here and I have NO idea how you would get a social worker/homestudy taken care of)- but I just wonder.
    Perhaps you don't know but I know you have thought of it since you have been so transformed by the lives of precious orphans there.


  4. Fun and interesting post. It definitely took me back to my child hood, growing up in Xiamen. The market pic looks so familiar.

    Xin Nian Quai le! I've lost some of my language skills, including pin yin. I miss it.


  5. Carrie, thanks for answering our questions. I am always very interested in what happy to hear about everyday life. If it makes feel a bit better, sometimes I wish that I could be living somewhere other than the same town I grew up in.


  6. Thanks so much for another peak into your world. I would love to take a leave from work and come volunteer in China when my daughter is older. It's always nice to have some perspective of what that really entails.


  7. Okay, now I've savored every word..well, except the donkey part.

    And I'm almost a vegetarian in the States…and when we traveled in '07 & '08, I confess I ate NO meat. I'm such a chicken! (…no pun intended!;)

    You crack me up with your crOckpot snafu! (I'm rolling with the puns tonight)

    Love this post, Carrie! If I think of any other questions, I'll save them for when I see you LIVE and IN PERSON after CNY! Be still my heart, we're coming Kevin!


  8. Thanks for sharing your life there. Really interesting to read your answers to the questions. I think a lot of us China adoptive parents fantasize about living in China for a bit but I know it would be a huge adjustment and we'd probably be screaming to go home in about two weeks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.